A chance for parolees to turn over a new leaf

Second chance in life: A parolee working at Hameediyah Restaurant at Campbell Street. Currently six are employed by the restaurant. — ZHAFARAN NASIB/The Star

GEORGE TOWN: He was a drug offender who was sent to jail.

He’s still serving his sentence but now, he gets to mix freely with people outside the prison and even eat Penang’s favourite dish – nasi kandar – for free.

Wan (not his real name) is a prison parolee, and is considered a low-risk inmate because of his good behaviour.

He is among parolees who have been allowed to work in places like restaurants while serving the rest of their sentence.

For many months now, he has been working in Hameediyah, the oldest nasi kandar restaurant in the country.

He helps as a waiter and does the dishes and cleaning up; and is paid the minimum wage of RM1,500.

The money is banked into his account and will be his to spend when he is released.

Better yet, he could become a full-time employee of the restaurant once he is released.

The 25-year-old had spent four years in Melaka prison before being accepted into the Prisons Department parole programme.

“I feel like I have been given a new opportunity. I love the work here. I feel grateful for this second chance at life,” he told The Star yesterday.

“We are taught so many aspects of the job: waiting on tables, taking orders, cleaning and serving customers.”

He has another three months to work before he returns to Melaka prison to be set free.

Wan said he now felt ready to get back into society.

He had had his doubts when he first started work but was surprised when his employer and other staff members treated him and other parolees well.

And there’s an added bonus – he loves having Hameediyah’s nasi kandar every day.

Then there is Mat, 38, who was sent to Melaka prison for drug and theft offences.

He said his salary had been banked in every month and he had not touched the money.

He, too, has three months to go before his jail term ends and wants to return to his hometown in Sungai Buloh, Selangor, once he is a free man.

He plans to open a small business with the money he has been earning and prays all will go well after this.

Mat said he has not needed a sen of his salary because his employer provides him with food, lodging and uniforms while at work.

“What else can a man want? This is good enough to help me stand on my own two feet again.

“The parole programme is good for us. Everyone deserves a second chance,” he said.

A Prisons Department source said under the community rehabilitation of inmates there were programmes like the Parole System, Licensed Prisoner Release and Inmate Reintegration Programme.

This is part of the department’s efforts to help inmates rejoin society and become useful citizens.

“Eligible prisoners are those who committed minor theft and drug related offences,” he said.

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